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Freedom Together- UNESCO’s Push for Social Cohesion and Freedom of Expression

By Belle Tey Jing Yi, Agence France-Presse

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 07:02 AM

The UNESCO will be discussing Social Cohesion through Youth development. The debate premises two main topics: mitigating school violence to ensure safety in school compounds and diversifying education of culture.

What are some of the dangers youths face?

What are some of the dangers youths face?

The Centre of Disease Control surveys students biennially to assess problems affecting youths. Their findings show that in the 30 days prior to the survey, 6% of students carried a weapon, 8% of students had been in a physical fight, 9% of students did not go to school, fearing for their safety and 7% of teachers reported being threatened with injury or being physically attacked by a student from their school. These alarming figures are warnings of the potential danger students and staff face in the school compound. Internalising behaviour is a major concern as students may be introverts which results in their negativity towards socialising evolving into negative behavior. While externalising behaviours are more common among children, internalising behaviour should not be neglected as it remains until adolescence and is one of the main contributors to physical bullying.

The three main factors contributing to school violence are: access to weapons, cyber abuse and environmental impact, including school, family and community environment. An astonishing 42% of students claimed that they could get a gun at will, with 28% of students having handled a gun without adult knowledge or supervision. The Ohio state researchers found that high school students who had more exposure to violent video games held more pro-violent attitudes, hostile personalities and were less forgiving. A survey by the Children’s Institute International revealed that nearly 50% of teenagers believe their school is becoming violent. This could be due to an increase in school sizes, the increasing presence of gangs and the obliviousness of school staff which causes insecurity among students, distracting them from learning and enjoying their time in school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been actively following the issue of school violence and has instilled several systems including the School Health Index. However, due to the lack of a realistic, effective disciplinary system, community between parents and school staff, as well as students being disconnected from their teachers, the attempts to regulate student behaviour within school compounds remains a difficult task. School violence compromises societal cohesion, making it a pressing issue which UNESCO is aiming to eliminate.

Another factor that compromises societal cohesion is the difference in culture and beliefs of students. With schools becoming increasingly multi-cultural, students need to acquire basic knowledge of different cultures within their living space and the easiest platform to raise awareness about racial harmony in the younger generation is through education.

UNESCO will also discuss on freedom of expression, focusing on freedom of the Press and freedom of the Arts. Media freedom has always been a controversial issue: the right for freedom of expression has been granted, yet press laws are still in place to curb the freedom granted. In 2017, Freedom House,a non-profit organisation, found that only a mere 13% of the world’s population enjoys a free press, and press freedom has been declining drastically.

Pertaining to freedom of expression in the Arts, economic, political or social climate, today’s society restricts freedom of expression from thriving, and the fear of losing our status quo circumscribes our freedom of expression in the arts. Recent events such as the incarceration of Chinese visual artist Ai WeiWei has highlighted the vulnerability of artists to the public and raised discussions on the freedom of expression in arts as many others started to question whether there should be freedom in the arts.

We, the Agence-France Presse, remain neutral on the issue of school violence. However, we strongly support the push for more freedom of expression. We believe that artists and journalists should have the rights to express themselves without fearing intimidation, incarceration or physical harm. Rest assured, we will only present the truth to our viewers, regardless of what that truth is.